Farming method grows local produce year round
Imagine having your favorite farmer’s market produce that is only available during the summer months, year-round.
A structure called a “high tunnel” is gaining popularity in the commercial growing community.
It is similar to a greenhouse but it is cheaper to build.
During the summer, Fresh Foods in Carbondale is known for it’s local produce.
But in February, employee Bethany Birdwell says local fruits and veggies are harder to come by.
“All of it’s pretty much coming from Chile, Mexico, Arkansas,” said Birdwell.
Soon, you could be able to get all of your salad ingredients from a farmer down the road, even during the winter months.
On Monday, it was a cloudy 37 degrees outside, but if you stepped inside the high tunnel it was ten degrees warmer.
Local grower Nathan Johanning says on a day when the sun is shining, he has seen it 40 degrees warmer in the tunnel than it is outside.
That temperature change is what allows seasonal produce to grow.
“These are over-wintering, and hopefully in a month or so, we will have carrots.”
The tunnel is covered in a plastic that allows the sun’s energy to come in, but not out.
“Rather than just having things when the natural weather outside would permit, we’re able to extend the season in some cases throughout the entire year,” said Johanning.
Farmers can take their high tunnel crops and sell them to local produce shops like Fresh Foods.
“A lot of people are kind of nervous when things are coming from so far away, so if it was coming from just down the street, a lot of people would be way more confident,” said Birdwell.
It is a system that could be better for the farmer, the local business, and you.
If high tunnel growing takes off and farmers supply more local produce to stores, it could mean a lower grocery bill for you.